Background

Over 200,000 Bedouins live in Israel’s Negev region – about one third of the region’s population. The Negev Bedouins are among the most socioeconomically disadvantaged groups in Israel, lagging behind the general population in education, employment, income, and infrastructure:

  • As of 2016, all Bedouin localities – and only Bedouin localities – are in the lowest cluster in terms of socioeconomic ranking (ranked 1 on a scale of 1-10).
  • Just 30% of all 18 year-old Bedouins earn a full high school matriculation certification, compared with 48% of Arab citizens and 53% overall.
  • In 2014, just under 5% of Bedouins between the ages of 20-29 were pursuing a degree at a higher education institution, compared with 8% of Arabs and 14% overall.
  • Employment rate among Bedouin men (56%) and women (24%) are significantly lower than among Arab citizens (80% for men, 35% for women) and Jewish citizens (90% for men, 85% for women).
  • Average personal income in the Bedouin community stands at NIS 1,180, compared with the national average of NIS 5,255.
  • One third of Bedouins live in unrecognized villages. These villages lack proper educational facilities, commercial infrastructure, and are cut off from access to public transportation.

This reality means that the Bedouin community is largely detached from access to economic opportunity and social mobility in Israel. Government support to the community focuses largely on low-income employment and education initiatives. As a result, Bedouin participation in Israel’s technology industry, the country’s main economic growth engine, is practically non-existent. Because of its exclusion from the industry, the Bedouin community is completely unaware of what the tech industry is about, and of the economic benefit it can provide. Therefore, the low but steadily increasing number of Bedouin young people who are able to pursue higher education overwhelmingly study medicine or health sciences – professionals that are held in high regard by the community. In 2017, less than 30 Bedouin college and university students studied STEM subjects, or science, technology, engineering, and math. In its exclusion from the tech industry, the Bedouin community misses an immense opportunity for economic growth, diversity of professional trajectories, increase in per capita income, and even communal financial sustainability.

The Siraj NGO aims to catalyze and lead the entrance of Bedouin engineers into the Israeli tech industry. Siraj takes a holistic approach to achieving this aim, which includes: building awareness among Bedouin community members and schools about the tech industry; encouraging and offering additional technical and soft-skills training to Bedouin college and university graduates; and recruitment of candidates to work in the industry. Siraj is set apart from other initiatives in the space of workforce integration and development, because it emphasizes the importance of creating a demand for Bedouin talent by establishing a social business, the tech company Siraj Technologies Ltd., that will primarily hire Bedouin engineers. By definition the Siraj NGO will always hold majority ownership of Siraj Ltd.

Leadership

Aharon Fogel
Aharon FogelChairman
Mr. Fogel is the Chairman of the Board of ZIM Integrated Shipping Services Ltd. He previously held multiple executive roles within the Ministry of Finance, including serving as Director General of the Ministry from 1992-1995.
Fadi Elobra
Fadi Elobra Board Member
Mr. Elobra is a serial entrepreneur who established leading social businesses, including Duroos, a social venture aimed at empowering Arab youth in Israel in their pursuit of higher education, and TALENTEAM, a head-hunting firm that eliminates barriers to private sector employment opportunities for Arab professionals. In 2009, he was named Israel’s Young Entrepreneur of the Year.
Hanan Alkrenawi
Hanan Alkrenawi Board Member
Ms. Alkrenawi directs the Riyan Employment Center’s Imtiaz Program to increase employment in Bedouin society in the Negev. She is a graduate of the Mandel Center for Leadership in the Negev. An experienced social worker with deep knowledge of the welfare system and an expertise in group facilitation, Ms. Alkrenawi serves as Mayor’s Advisor on Women’s Issues in the Rahat Municipality.
Dr. Sara Abu Kaf
Dr. Sara Abu KafBoard Member
Doctor of Psychology at Ben Gurion University. Post Doc, Harvard University.
Prof Jihad El-Sana
Prof Jihad El-SanaBoard Member
Ph.D. in Computer Science from Stony Brook University. Head of the Computer Science Department at Ben Gurion University.
Khader Al-Sheikh
Khader Al-SheikhBoard Member
Businessman and leading business entrepreneur in the Bedouin society.
Smadar Nehab
Smadar NehabBoard Member
Technology and social entrepreneur & executive, co-founder of Tsofen.
Dr. Giora Yaron
Dr. Giora YaronBoard Member
Ph.D. in Applied Physics, Chairman Tel Aviv University. High tech entrepreneur.

Supporters

We would like to extend our deepest gratitude to our partners in achieving Siraj’s vision: